This past Saturday, Barlow speakers took six awards including top honors at a regional debate at Crosby High School in Waterbury. Teams from more than a dozen public, private, and parochial schools came to debate the merits of using protectionism as as response to unfair trade practices in other countries.
Seniors Cara Krupnikoff-Salkin and Melani Zuckerman won the exhibition final against Simsbury, putting them at the top in the varsity division. They each respectively earned the second and third place speaker awards, too.
The topic of protectionism played to Barlow’s strengths as Melani and Cara were national finalists in both Fed Challenge and the Euro Challenge, two competitions where mastery of monetary and fiscal policy are expected. They won the coin toss against Simsbury opting to take the negative side, opposing protectionism.
Rather than advocating some mix of tariffs and quotas, Simsbury opened the debate with an unexpected plan, proposing to use World Trade Organization regulations to raise wages and workplace protections in poor countries as a way to protect American workers from job losses.
Zuckerman countered by trying to prove there was no need for any kind of protectionism, providing an avalanche of statistics showing how American workers are actually in relatively good shape according to a variety of indicators. She argued that the unemployment rate, the quit rate, labor participation rate, GDP growth, and inflation, all of which were on target and trending in America’s favor.
Krupnikoff-Salkin’s first speech reminded the crowd that the debate was supposed to be about the welfare of American workers, and the affirmative’s plan was simply not true to the resolution. In cross examination, her questioning was so incisive it caused one of her opponents to end questioning early, saying, “well, it looks like we’re almost out of time,” rather than answer.
Later on, Zuckerman noted that her opponents offered no response to her vigorous defense of free trade as being more beneficial to the U.S. In her rebuttal she leveraged research she did for her AP Comparative Government class’ simulation of Brexit negotiations.
She used the UK’s decision to leave the EU as an example to prove that supranational bodies and agencies like the WTO, the EU, the EEA, and the EFTA are incapable of restraining sovereign countries from doing what they wanted with respect to trade. Instead, she pointed to Norway as an example of a non-EU state who has succeeded in using bi-lateral, free-trade deals rather than protectionism or multilateral accords to help their domestic economy.
Simsbury pushed back hard, arguing with impassioned rhetoric that middle-class wage growth has been stagnant for decades and that Americans were losing through forced technology transfers to China. They argued the US should threaten to cut off trade, the U.S. could stop the bleeding.
Krupnikoff-Salkin listened carefully to her opponents and was able capitalize on the fact that the affirmative had changed their plan during the debate, and she offered responses to both policies. To their first plan, she pointed out that there was no proof that the WTO could enforce labor standards, and their second plan, she argued that traditional protectionism could cause a trade war.
In closing, she expressed sympathy with the aims of her opponents, to stop wage slavery in poor countries, but pointed out that they had chosen the wrong policy tools to achieve their aims. She compared the affirmative’s WTO plan to a popped tire. “You can put more air in there, but it won’t work.”
In the end, the panel of judges gave the round to Barlow by a unanimous 5-0 decision, a margin not seen since 2009 when they took states for two years running. This achievement further underscored the abilities of Zuckerman who will represent the United States at the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships to be held this spring in Cape Town, South Africa.
Also undefeated in varsity were senior co-captain Elizabeth Hayman and Charlotte Bridwell. Also unbeaten were Greg Coleman and Zach Shortt defied the typical “sophomore slump” experienced by tenth graders competing in varsity.
Two Barlow novices earned speaker awards. Sophomore Melissa Colasante finished third in her inaugural tournament and freshman Claudia Meyer earned the fifth-place speaker award. Freshman Matt Zuckerman followed in the footsteps of his sister, who together with partner Spencer Squitieri went undefeated in their second-consecutive Connecticut Debate Association event.
Everyone on Barlow’s roster of nearly 30 speakers had at least one win for the day. Juniors Jacob Paquette, Benny Viselli, Emily Nolan, and Nate Laske all went 2-1 for the day. Senior Ella Chen and junior co-captain Madalyn Migliorino pulled off a win against Simsbury in round 2.
In novice, sophomores Madeleine McHale, Dylan Leone, and freshmen Kyle Murray, and Jason Brannan all put up two wins. First-time sophomores Connor Frederickson and Tanner Hansen along with freshmen Reese Costenbader and Clare McCaffrey dug out a win, too.
Barlow’s season continues next month at West Haven’s Engineering and Science University Magnet School.
Cara Krupnikoff-Salkin and Melani Zuckerman